Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cindy: From its striking cover to its compelling heroine, readers will root for ex-slave Isabel to one day find her promised freedom. Set in New York City during the summer of 1776, Manhattan as a battleground is vividly realized as Isabel becomes a spy. Her sex and ethnicity help her efforts as she is invisible to the powerful white men around her. Author M.T. Anderson, who explores similar themes of freedom and liberty in his Revolutionary War novels about Octavian Nothing, jokes that some folks think he and Laurie are siblings and that their parents must have influenced these books. There's no genetic relation between them, but the two authors have made admirable contributions to the study of our national family's foundation and philosophy.
Lynn: Cindy and I agree on this wonderful book. For me it is Isabel's strong voice that is the highlight. This is the kind of book that makes history sing out with a voice that brings the time and place to life for young readers. Anderson does a terrific job of weaving the necessary historical information into the story also, never letting that slow the pace. I especially appreciate the accurate portrayal of the very ambivalent feelings most people had about the revolution. Everyday survival was center stage and siding with the eventual winner meant more to most ordinary people than championing a cause, a fact that seldom appears in books for teens. I was captured completely by Isabel and was loathe to end the story. I need a sequel, please! While we have recommended this book for grades 7-10, I think it is perfect to give to younger strong readers.